Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Juniper Berries

Recipe 4 of 103 ¬† All photos by Jenny ūüôā

How about some veggies after all that amazing duckiness? Brussels Sprouts…do you love or hate? I LOVE them! If cooked well, they are amazing. I see them on menus all over in various preparations, grilled, shredded, cold or hot, these little morsels are all the rage.

April does them very well. Here is what you will need to rock them like she does.BrusSprt05e

serves 4-5

1 pound medium brussels sprouts

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 large cloves garlic, halved lengthwise

2 ounces pancetta, sliced thin about 6 slices

1 teaspoon maldon sea salt. invest in this salt, its lovely

3-4 dried pequin chilies, chopped fine or fresh red pepper flakes

2 juniper berries, smashed and finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped

1/2 lemon

Start by cutting the bottom off the brussels sprouts, then cut in half.

Slice the pancetta, peel and slice the garlic. Crush and chop the chilies, thyme and juniper berries. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, add the garlic quickly tossing for about 30 seconds until garlic is browned, but not burnt.BrusSprt06fRemove garlic and reserve, add pancetta. Cook in the garlic infused oil until its crispy. reserve for later.BrusSprt11kIn the same pan while still very hot, add the brussels sprouts cut side down. Let them get a good sear, then turn them over. Medium heat turning and tossing them carefully every now and then until done about 8 to 10 minutes.

When they’ve cooked to your liking, soft or a bit crunchy, turn off the heat. Add the salt, big flaky beautiful maldon salt.BrusSprt14nas well as the pequin chilies, juniper berries, thyme and a big squeeze of lemon. BrusSprt15oToss in the pancetta and garlic and serve right away.BrusSprt17q Taste and enjoy…….so good. The juniper berries add a floral spice that knocks you out. The pequin chilies are darling little gems, not too spicy at all. I urge you to seek them out, I found them at my local mexican market. Buy good pancetta at an Italian deli or a good fresh market, don’t get that crap that looks like spam…cause it taste like spam! I call it spamcetta, its gross…trust me. Make these right now, you will not regret it. The food porn pics are courtesy of my Jennay – of Absolutely Photography. Thanks for being my visual director so I can just get my cook on.


Duck Confit

Recipe 3 of 103

Duck Confit was a revelation for me while in culinary school. ¬†First how easy it was to make and second how good it was fresh out of the duck fat. It’s rich, tender, crunchy, salty and delicious.¬†Confit is something cooked in its own fat, duck legs cooked in duck fat, pork butt cooked pork fat aka carnitas – you get the idea right? Making it, is fairly easy and inexspensive. Duck leg/thighs are about $6 a pound (1 pound would be 2 leg/thighs) currently at whole paycheck, they are organic and air chilled, try to buy the best you can. They will have duck fat at most of their bigger stores too – if you didn’t already get some or buy on line. Like I said in the last post it will change your life. April’s recipe is encouraged in the book to go with her cassoulet. You cannot have cassoulet with out duck confit. Since I just did cassoulet for my birthday last month, I’m going to wait until much later in the year to show you guys her cassoulet. Which means I will be making duck confit again….yippee! Her duck confit is different from mine, I like her cooking method a lot. She serves the leg/thighs intact with super crispy skin, I prefer to pull the meat and crisp it up shredded.

Here is what you will needconfitstuff

2 duck leg/thighs with plenty of fatty skin

3 cups rendered duck fat:)

12 black peppercorns

12 juniper berries

4 dried pequin chilies

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 sprig of thyme, leaves only

4 cloves of garlic peeled

1/2 cup kosher salt

Place the peppercorns, juniper berries, chilies and cinnamon in a mortar. crushCrush them with the pestle to a corse consistency.crush2Add the thyme leaves and the garlic and crush into a pastecrush3Add the salt and mix well. Put the duck on a plate and sprinkle with the spice/salt mixture, covering all sides and pat into legs gently.marinateCover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours up to 48 hours. I buy duck leg/thighs in bulk so I made a ton.marinate2These have been marinating for 48 hours. April does hers for 24 hours, I pushed it to 48, mostly because I couldn’t cook them the next day so they carried on for one more day in the fridge, not a big deal. Next rinse off all of the spice mixture and pat each leg dry.

Assemble them all in a single layer in the pan.ready4fatAdd the rendered duck fat so it just covers the duck legs.simmerApril is very casual about this next part, which I really enjoyed. In school we had to check the temp on the fat every 15 minutes to make sure the fat stayed at 200 F, we cooked it for 3 to 4 hours. April says keep it at a low simmer so you see a bubble here and there and cook for 2 1/2 hours or until the meat comes away from the bone with a twist of a fork. Her method does allow for the leg and thigh to stay a bit more intact, which is better for service as a whole piece. The meat is just as tender as the longer method I was taught in school. Both methods work great, choose the one that fits your final outcome for service. Your house will smell amazing, like Thanksgiving Day, seriously it does. When your legs are done, remove from the fat and drain on a cooling rack if you’re going to shred them. If you’re keeping them intact let them cool completely in the fat, store them this way for up to several weeks. To serve the legs whole and crispy, heat a small amount of duck fat in a saute pan and fry the legs skin side down until the skin is super crispy.duck2I shredded mine. I freeze it in 2 portion servings, wrapped in foil then plastic. Thats why I make a ton at a time:) It’s always there for me, I love it.¬†shredLooks like carnitas, right? So good!!!! To crisp up the shredded duck confit, same as the intact legs, small amount of duck fat in saute pan.crispyI made a couple of salads, I love duck confit in a salad.spinachSpinach, Dried Cherries, Stilton Cheese and Crispy Duck Confit with a Vanilla Bean & Roasted Shallot Dressing.eggonitThe most over used culinary trend right now.¬†Put an EGG on it! I call this the Breakfast Salad. Sliced romaine tossed with caramelized tangy onion dressing, slices of duck fat fried potatoes, pancetta chunks, poached egg and you guessed it…duck confit!

Thanks for reading, I promise I will shut up about duck for a while.


Duck Fat Potatoes

Recipe 2 of 103

Duck fat is like pure gold…really….trust me. Potatoes cooked in duck fat are golden and crispy with soft creamy die for.
crunch2Nutritionally duck fat is similar to olive oil , it is low in saturated fat, with a good combination of poly and monounsaturated fats. Duck fat has a high smoke point and can be re used over and over again.¬†Dare I say it…better than butter?!?! Buy some, you will not regret it. I hoard it and use it often, you will too.

What you will need to enjoy the awesomeness of potatoes fried in duck fat.

2 1/2 pounds large russet baking potatoes  (2 large halved lengthwise or 4 small, peeled and rinsed)

Kosher salt

2 cups rendered duck fat, gently warmed until liquid

Maldon or another flaky sea salt

Peel and rinse potatoes. Place potatoes in a pot filled with cold water so they’re covered by an inch or two of water. Add kosher salt so the water tastes a bit less salty than the ocean.Potatoboil Bring to a boil over high heat, than lower heat to keep a vigorous simmer. Cook the potatoes until you can insert a butter knife without to much resistance. April says “don’t get too poke-happy or they’ll get waterlogged” do what she says. This should take about 15 minutes. Drain in colander and let rest so the steam can escape.coolpotatoPreheat oven to 450 F. While the potatoes release their steam, heat your duck fat gently in an oven proof pan, cast iron dutch oven or a saute pan with straight high edges will work nicely. Heat duck fat on high heat, let the fat simmer for about 5 minutes. Test with a piece of potato to make sure fat is hot enough, the potato should sizzle and crackle and continue to bubble. If the fat isn’t hot enough the potatoes will stick.fry1Carefully add all the potatoes to the fat, let them brown on all sides this should take about 10-15 minutes.fry2 When each one has a light golden crust on all sides, carefully place pan in oven and roast ¬†for 10-15 minutes, turning them over once in that time. They should come out looking like this.fry3Remove from hot fat with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels, immediately sprinkle with sea salt and let cool a bit. Serve at once or just stand over the plate and eat them all like we did with a garlic aioli and chopped green onions.donepotatoWe being Jenny and I and yes we macked out, they were heavenly. Photo credit to Jenny from Absolutely Photography, sad part is I did the photo editing….its been so long since my photoshop days, apologies to my Jennay. Cool your duck fat to warm and strain through a fine mesh sieve. Place in clean container, keeps in fridge for a week or freeze for up to 6 months. Don’t freeze this batch just yet….Duck Confit is next and it will change your life.

Gluten Free Flax-Coconut Pancakes

Pancakes haven’t always been my favorite breakfast and I love almost all things breakfast. Pancakes are fluffy and sweet but thats about it, no real nutritional value to keep you going to lunch. I found this recipe in Food and Wine magazine while searching for gluten free ideas, don’t get me wrong I have nothing against gluten, I love me some wheat…..but I was intrigued by this we put these on one of our weekly menus and I gotta say I was blown away by how good they were, so I’m sharing them with you.

First off let’s talk alternative flours. This recipe call for 3 flours, 2 starches & flax meal. These are not your everyday grocery items, but easy to find and not too pricey. The gluten free food thing is huge right now, some people really thrive on not having wheat in their diet and some just do it because their neighbor is doing it. If you think you have a wheat allergy get it confirmed by your doctor, if you do, chances are avoiding wheat will change your life for the better. If you think you’ll get skinny by not eating wheat… will not.Bob’s Red Mill is a popular brand that you should be able to find in your local grocery store. You will for sure find all of these at your local health food store. Another option for the rice flours is to make them yourself, if you have a Vita Mix or a Blendtec blender or any other super bad *ss blender, take regular rice and blend until the rice becomes a fine powder…done! now you have rice flour…so cool. You can do the same with the flax seeds. Consult the recipe book or manual that came with your blender for details on settings and all that. All these flours combined, mimic the all purpose flour that would be used in regular pancake recipes.

Recipe makes 12 – 4″ pancakes

  • 1/3 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/3 cup white rice flour
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 3 tablespoons potato starch
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, room temp
  • 1/4 coconut oil, melted, plus more for the griddle
  • Fresh fruit and real maple syrup, for serving.

I love these pancakes so much I mixed all the flours together in the measurements above in separate bags so I always have this dry mix ready to go.In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients. In a smaller separate bowl mix all the wet ingredients. Add the wet to the dry and mix until just moistened, if the batter is too thick add small amounts of milk until it is just right. Preheat a griddle or a pan, grease with coconut oil and start making pancakes.Serve hot with REAL maple syrup and any fresh fruit you have on hand. These also keep well in the fridge for a few days and toast up nicely for a quick breakfast on the go. The flax meal & coconut flour add fiber, omega 3’s and minerals.¬†YUM!! Enjoy!

Ben’s Chicken Dinner

It has been a big week here in our world. The Man Cub turned 21, so I made his favorite dinner: Baked Chicken, Mashed Potatoes w/ Gravy and Peas. He’s always tagged this meal as his go-to when asked, “What do you want for dinner ?”¬†I made this meal and timed it for his arrival, but he missed his plane ! Poor kid had to eat the leftovers. He woofed it down in the middle of the night with no complaints.

Baking a whole chicken is something everyone should know how to do. It’s easy, versatile, and tasty. Plus you have the carcass for making stock, or the nectar. The best tip I have for you is buy a good chicken !!!!! Kosher or Organic only. Commercial chickens are pumped full of water and hormones that bloat the chicken into weighing more, but when you cook them they shrivel into nothing and leave a pool of water in your pan. This ruins the drippings you hope to catch for gravy later.
Enough of my blabber, shall we get started ?

The Fixin’s

  • 1 whole chicken, 4 lbs, washed and patted dry
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened.
  • Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
  • Fresh ground White Pepper
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • Fresh Herbs, sage, rosemary and thyme
  • Slices of Lemon
  • 1 Onion quartered
  • 6 to 8 stalks of celery, to make a rack for the chicken

Preheat oven to 400. Wash the chicken inside and out, pat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper the inside really well. Fill the cavity with the fresh herbs, a few pieces of onion, and slices of lemon.

Spread the softened butter all over the outside of the bird, then salt and pepper all over. I’m not big on trussing, but I will tie up the legs a bit. That’s about it.

Take the celery and remaining onions and make a rack for the bird to rest on while baking.
You can do this with whatever you like: all onions, lemons, potatoes, or whatever you have on hand that will flavor your chicken and the drippings.

Bake for about 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the size of your bird. I check it at an hour. Temp in thigh should be 180. When done, cover and let rest while you get ready to plate.

Strain the goodies in the baking dish and reserve for gravy.

Here are some shots of the master carver Jim’s handy work.

While your bird is baking and filling the house with lovely aromas, make the mashed potatoes.
Mashed Potatoes

  • 6-8 whole potatoes, peeled and halved.
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup cream or half and half
  • Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
  • Fresh ground White Pepper

Peel the potatoes and let rest in a bowl of water. Set a big pot of water to boil with plenty of salt. Add potatoes to boiling water and cook until a knife cuts easily.

Drain the potatoes and return them to the hot pot. Let them dry out a bit.

Add the potatoes to the mixing bowl of your stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip them together with the butter and the cream. Salt and pepper to taste.

When your potatoes are done, fill the big pot with some water and simmer over a low flame. Put the mixing bowl back in the pot over the simmering water to keep warm. Put a few slices of butter on top and cover until ready to plate.

See the small pot in the back ground ?
That is the nectar staying warm and ready for gravy time !!
My grandmother taught me how to make gravy. It always seemed so scary. I would stress about it every time. I think stressing myself out made me pay attention to the details and the science of how gravy comes together.
Ready ?
Add the drippings to a big saute pan 10″-12″, heat until bubbly, add flour, and whisk together to make a a paste or a roux. Cook for a few minutes, always stirring to take away the floury flavor.

Slowly add the warmed chicken stock a cup at a time, whisking very rapidly all the time. Never stop stirring.

When it comes back to boil after adding the liquid, it will start to thicken. If it’s too thick, add more stock. If it’s too thin, boil for a bit longer. When it gets to the consistency you like, you can add the liver chopped very fine.
It’s a fine dance to learn and so rewarding.

  • 4 to 5 Tablespoons drippings
  • 3 Tablespoons Flour
  • 2-3 cups homemade nectar / chicken stock – warmed.
  • Finely chopped Liver – optional. Don’t be a wuss. Try it.
  • Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
  • Fresh ground White Pepper
The peas are easy. Heat up fresh frozen peas and toss with butter and fresh chopped parsley. We served cornbread with this meal as well. I use the Trader Joe’s Cornbread box mix, but I add a bunch of stuff that makes it better. Add an extra egg, Kefir instead of milk, green chiles, and grated cheese. Mix and bake as stated on box.
Now if I may gush a bit on all the photos in this blog post. Jenny, last week’s guest blogger with the amazing Zinfandel Pot Roast¬†took all these photos with her super amazing camera. It’s some kind of big, bad ass, digital Nikon thing. They make my iPhone photos seem silly. I am researching camera options so that I too can rock the killa photos like these. Check out Jenny’s skills here.¬†Enjoy.

Oh the Irish in me !

St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow, so I whipped up some Irish grub to celebrate the day of green, or the day of drinking or the day to cook Corned Beef & Cabbage !!
I come by my Irish blood honestly, meet my Grandpa Jim May, he’s not with us anymore but he will always be¬†in our hearts.

This is a picture of him when he was 16, attending Morgan Park Military Academy in Chicago. He went on to WWII in the Pacific Theater on Guam as a Marine Raider, first guys off the boat. He was shot and recovered at the Naval Hospital in San Diego, where he meant my Grandma Dorothy Harle, then came my Mom, then came Me. When I was little, he ran bars downtown SD, he’d cook big pots of stews for the bar patrons and let me sit on the bar and eat as many Maraschino Cherries as I could. I always remember him cooking. So I dedicate this meal to him. Miss you Grandpa

Corned Beef w/ Cabbage, Potatoes & Carrots.
4 to 5 lb Corned Beef ( I got the uncured one at Trader Joe’s, AMAZING )
1 whole head of cabbage
2-3 potatoes quartered
6-7 small fresh carrots/ chopped big
1 bottle of beer
Put the beef and the spices from the bag in a dutch oven, add 1 beer  Рyour favorite flavor, I used a Fat Tire, from Colorado, not Irish but very tasty. Besides I needed to save all the Irish beer for Black and Tans.
 Add water until the beef is covered. Cook at 325 for at least 3 hours. Check the beef for the fall apart factor, the meat should be extremely tender and cut easily with a fork. Remove the meat from the pot and let rest on a plate for carving. Add the veggies to the pot and return to the oven for 20 minutes or until veggies are cooked but still slightly firm.
Slice up the meat and serve the veggies on the side with some good stone ground mustard.
Enjoy, it’s yummy.

Little Pots of Yummy.

Since the rain continued through out the day, I stayed on the yummy warm comfort food path. I made individual Chicken Pot Pies, a big favorite in my house. I use the pastry dough from Trader Joe’s, it saves on time, but I always make my own chicken stock. There is nothing like homemade stock. Take the time to whip up a big pot and freeze it for future use, you’ll be glad its there. I’ll post my method for chicken stock next.

These are great to freeze for lunches. I’ve even froze a bunch, packed them in my suitcase and flew to Seattle, they arrived cold and ready for the oven. They’ve been a big hit for dinner parties as well.

Be sure to gather good veggies for this recipe, celery that’s bright green and has that salty crisp to it. Fresh herbs and sweet young carrots. As for the chicken breast, you can use already cooked chicken from the store, but it’s so easy to cook up your own.
I take the chicken breast and pound them out really thin in a zip lock bag, then season with ground white pepper and mineral salt. These will cook very quickly in a saute pan with very little oil. They come out super moist and delicious. Tear them up in whatever size pieces you want, don’t chop it, it looks too commercial chopped. Really, you can do whatever you want, I’m just saying.

Photo note: The first picture was from a previous cooking session, I just liked how the pastry came out on these.The remaining pictures were taken at night and appear a bit blurry. Bare with me, I’m working out my lighting issues. All these were taken with my iphone.


  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped potatoes, blanched in boiling salted water- optional
  • 1 cup frozen peas thawed
  • 2 cups torn up cooked chicken breast
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups fresh homemade hot chicken stock
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon of milk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Ready a sheet pan with 6 (10-ounce) ramekins.
In a large mixing bowl gently combine the carrots, celery, potatoes, peas, herbs and parsley, add the torn up chicken breast meat and set aside. 

Gravy time, don’t be scared, it’s easy, just don’t leave the pan and stir stir stir. In a large saut√© pan melt the butter, add flour and stir into a paste and cooked until browned. Slowly add the hot chicken stock 1 cup at a time with a whisk until mixture becomes thick and gravy like, salt and pepper to taste. Add gravy to veggie chicken mixture in a large mixing bowl.

Place a puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface, and roll out slightly. Cut the pastry into 6 rounds to fit the bottom of the ramekins. 

Place each one in the bottom of the ramekin and bake the bottoms for 10-15 minutes or until browned nicely. Cut the remaining pastry into 6 rounds to fit the top of the ramekins, set aside in fridge on a baking sheet.

Fill each ramekin with the veggie chicken mixture.

Place chilling uncooked pastry atop each pie, brush with egg wash and slice a few half inch vents in the pastry tops.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until browned and bubbly.
Serve with Cole Slaw on the side.